As I ponder the New Year of 2022 (how did that happen?) and take a look back on the seismic activity we and our beautiful planet have endured lately, I can’t help but shift my idea of what to strive for in the future.
Honestly, I have never been one for resolutions because I’m a free spirit and I don’t crave structure. I prefer diversity and excitement over discipline. Even those words are more fun than “discipline.”
However, for whatever reason this year, while I am not going to make a resolution, I am into doing something different. Maybe I just need to shake up this whole 2-year-long pandemic thing. Look, change can always be on the horizon. Plus, science confirms that fresh starts - usually viewed as Mondays, 1sts, and especially January 1st- can be a good starting point for new habits and behavior change.
I don’t know exactly how this will fall into place but I have decided to wrap that thought around my goals and ideals. The hope is for it to show up in both my personal and professional worlds.
I am going to lay out some guidelines that will help me with structuring my plans for 2022. This technique is called SMART goals. I suspect it will help me stay on track with what I hope to achieve and just simply do in 2022. Direction coupled with action is a good combination!
photo via Ian Schneider on Unsplash
This acronym is a process to consider while reaching for your current dreams. I am feeling like giving it a go!
First, define a clear idea or message to achieve.
I.E. Rather than simply wanting to be healthy and travel, say “I want to stop spending so much on my food pursuits to save for my travel. As a by-product, if I don’t eat out as much, I will be eating healthier home-cooked meals.”
Track your progress by doing the math
I.E. If I save $22 a week on sweets and wine over the next 12 months I will save $1056 towards my European vacation.
Start with small steps and adjustments
I.E. I will give up desserts on weekends, I will eat earlier meals so I don’t get hungry and decide to grab take-out, and I will bring lunch to work.
Find out if you're operating from your own desires. Ask yourself, “Are my goals coming from an authentic place? Or is this someone else’s desire for me or a general societal pressure?”
First set a deadline. Then set up small daily or weekly check-ins and measurements. You can even get a goal-related planner or notebook to track your progress. You can gain small wins with a simple checkmark and build good daily habits at the same time.
I have to say, having this deadline of saving money for my upcoming trip gets me busy tracking my progress. I’m excited to play, explore, and enjoy the fruits of my labor! Hey, sometimes the things we want are a little challenging. Plus, setting a start and finish date helps firm the intentions up in my life before I decide to kick them a little further down the road.
Even if you take the time to organize your goals and thoughts through the SMART framework, there are still some pesky things to keep in mind when setting new goals:
photo via Mike Enerio on Unsplash
It is hard to break old habits.
Those stubborn neural pathways are tough to reroute. The best thing to do is to focus on replacing the habit rather than breaking up with the old habit. Have a desire to cut down on sugar? Your first thought might be to eliminate it completely, but instead, start by switching out your sugar-sweetened morning cup of coffee for one with an unsweetened dairy or plant-based creamer. You can even replace your coffee altogether with a nice cup of energizing tea.
The distraction of social media scrolling is an increasingly prevalent habit. Look at your cues, and ask yourself, “Am I bored or lonely?” Delay the impulse to be glued to your screen by leaving your phone out of reach so you don’t grab it first thing in the morning. Instead, get lost in a book or dust off your yoga mat and do some stretching.
It’s easier when we align our goals and habits with our deep desires.
Dig a bit to question what you want out of life. Approach this inquiry with a combo of vigilance and kindness. We should be our own best critics. If you want more joy and beauty around you, seek it out. Even if you have to go it alone - visit that art exhibit, jump in the ocean, or go to the park. Add some enjoyment to this process and subtract the guilt.
I want to visit some Celtic castles and I am dead set on making it happen. My trip is currently postponed (erg, this ongoing COVID) which is a temporary setback, but I am determined to get to Glasgow and explore my inner Druid. I won’t give up on my dream because it aligns deeply with what I want. Saving money for this journey seems like a walk in the park because it is super important to me.
We all need strong support systems.
Family and friends can brainstorm with you or they can even go along for the ride if you are on the same page about your goals.
For example, I am traveling to Europe with a friend, so we made a simple pact to come up with unique ways to cut our restaurant spending together. We might have a home cooking party or remind each other to pack our lunches. There is power in having a support system. When my willpower wanes and I just want that big plate of pasta from my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, she’s got my back and vice versa.
Another support option is something you can do by yourself. Just put simple notes on your phone or set up alerts in your digital calendar. I tend to be a bit more analog with my affirmations, so I like to have post-it notes placed around my home as little reminders: Slow Down, Breathe, and Be Gentle are some favorites of mine. You can jot down whatever will help you focus on that SMART goal.
It has a bad habit of poking holes in your plans. If those pesky dream-doubters come into your mind, then go with your gut instinct- it is there for a reason. Let worry and other people’s concerns pass by like a gust of wind. It will ultimately settle down. Every wish needs a follow-through, so zoom out a little and imagine life is happening for you, not to you.
photo via Joshua Earle on Unsplash
Be willing to start again.
I still slip up sometimes and give in to my desire for sushi. Sorry, I just can’t manage to make it at home! When I do err, I just give myself a little grace and get back on the horse. I find I have more success with forgiving myself a little bit here and there along the way than starting all over from scratch. I get a little bit better at holding on to my goal each time I refocus after a slip-up.
A brand new calendar year is a symbolic way to invigorate your visions. We celebrate achievements and seek out new ones. Life is a highway- we are in the fast lane until we realize we need to pull over at the rest stop to pee. Give yourselves breaks. We are living life, not in boot camp here. Coasting is alright sometimes and might even be your cup of tea for 2022, but if you have some goals and dreams, there is still time to make them happen. I have found the SMART method helps get things rolling.
Do you know the French word raison d'être? It translates to one’s reason and purpose for existing. Figure out what it is for you and chase it down. Happy hunting!
I am curious if you want to share - what goal might you go after this year? Remember: start with just one thing!